An open letter to Canadian employers re: the World Cup

Richard Whittall


Let me start out by saying I completely understand your concern for your company during the upcoming World Cup in South Africa. Perhaps you read a certain Globe and Mail article today and are now worried that unless you install a one thousand inch flat-screen plasma HD television in your conference room sometime over the next two days to placate your staff, your office network will collapse as the entire marketing department tries to watch South Africa v. Mexico online in hi-def this Friday morning.

I wish I could tell you that won't happen, but it will (perhaps you might ask the people at Best Buy about corporate discounts on big screen TVs or deals on free installation?).

Maybe you've also heard that your sister offices overseas are bracing for a £1 billion loss in output because British workers will be more interested in discussing Wayne Rooney's swearing problem over the next month than how to raise quarterly paper clip sales in time for the big shareholder meeting in the Fall.

Again, I wish I could tell you their concerns weren't totally and completely baseless, but they're not and you need to be prepared.

You have to understand; this is the World Cup. This isn't going to just involve the HR guy who wore an AC Milan shirt on casual Friday, or the head of sales who you caught in a Bay Street pub watching the Champions League semifinal instead of going over those projections like you asked him to. Even people who aren't interested in the World Cup are interested in the World Cup.

So my advice to you is to give in. Do not resist. Don't schedule any meetings (because really, what happens at a meeting anyway? "Hey Sally, do this by such and such time, here's a chart of something" etc. etc.). Accept that it is just a coincidence that your entire IT department is suffering from a terrible flu bug during the round of sixteen.

What about the fact that you are paying your employees for their time and therefore expect them to give priority to your company and not to a little ball getting kicked around by millionaires six time zones away? Well here's another Globe article from last week you might be interested in, an interview with author Tony Schwartz who says workers are actually more productive when they work in ninety minute cycles divided by "renewal time."

So why not think of the four and a half hours of soccer everyday during the groups stages over the next two weeks as '"renewal time" and leave it at that? Your workers will be happy, rested and almost certainly more productive than they would have been without the World Cup (and a pint or two) to "renew" them.

Finally, consider this: if the leaders of the developed world are already preparting to fob off a few silly G20 meetings to watch soccer, shouldn't it be okay for your workers to join them?

Thank you for your time.

Photo Credit: Canadian Press

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